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James McGrath: Illustrating Differences Between Scholarly Research and Mythicist Blog Conversations

December 29, 2010

James McGrath has been ‘debating’ a mythicist over at Exploring Our Matrix. He posted two good pieces last night Clarifying Gospel Genre for a Confused Mythicist and Scholars Assembling Puzzles: Illustrating Differences Between Scholarly Research and Mythicist Blog Conversations. There is some good stuff in both, but I particularly liked the second when James writes how scholars do not work in isolation, and the methodological errors that can be made when one does not understand this process.

When scholars investigate a question – whether a question about historical events, or the interpretation of a text or other sort of data – they do not work in isolation. In every case, there is some dependence on other scholars who have worked on other aspects of the question, or on other texts or historical matters about which our own expertise is limited, but about which we need to have some understanding to work on the particular problem we are investigating, because it relates to it in some way…

And here we see the biggest methodological problem that confronts creationists, mythicists, and other such points of view that ignore scholarship, choosing instead to attempt to figure things out on their own (or with the help of some likeminded conversation partners), in conformity with their own convictions, without concern for scholarship or research, and no need for labs or excavations or knowledge of ancient languages. Whether we are talking about the question of biological evolution, or the question of whether a historical figure of Jesus existed, these are questions for which particular pieces of evidence may be important, but ultimately the decisive consideration is that large numbers of scholars working on different specific areas related to these questions independently produce results that correlate with one another and cohere with the theory. If one piece of evidence pointed to Jesus having existed, or evolution having occurred, while many others pointed in the opposite direction, then there would not be the widespread consensus that exists among biologists and historians.


I had the opportunity to meet Dr. McGrath at SBL in Atlanta, and he is a genuinely nice person. Furthermore, I have never seen someone give a lecture for 30 minutes with a smile on their face the entire time! Whether you are a scholar or layperson: if you enjoy sci-fi, biblical studies, theology, good natured humor, and thought provoking articles then you need to be visiting his site.

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